Astragulus is a herb that may have various health benefits. Its benefits include antioxidant and antiviral properties.

Some research also suggests that astragalus may have the potential to treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes. However, further conclusive research into the effects of astragalus on humans is necessary.

This article discusses astragalus and its potential health benefits. In addition, the article explores possible side effects and drug interactions and answers some frequently asked questions.

Nutrition resources

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.

Was this helpful?
Image of astragalus roots on a blue plateShare on Pinterest
Quynh Tra My Nguyen/Getty Images

Astragalus membranaceus is the Latin name for the herb astragalus, which is part of the Fabaceae family of plants.

Different species of astragalus grow worldwide in places such as Southwestern Asia, the Chinese Himalayan region, the Americas, and Europe.

Other common names for astragalus include:

  • milkvetch
  • huáng qí
  • Radix astragalus

People use the root of the astragalus plant in traditional Chinese medicine and for making supplements and herbal remedies. They typically combine it with other herbs.

Scientists have researched more than 100 species of astragalus for their biologically active compounds. The three main active compounds are:

However, astragalus contains many other compounds, including three groups of toxic constituents.

People use astragalus in traditional Chinese medicine because of its purported health benefits. Some of these include:

However, it is important to note that scientists need to perform further research into the impacts of astragalus on the human body before they can make conclusive statements.

It may have properties for graceful aging support

According to a 2017 research review, astragalus may have pro-aging support. In addition, the review suggested that the herb may reduce oxidative stress and neurodegeneration. It may also act as a tonic to build stamina and promote immune function.

It may have potential benefits for cancer

Astragali radix is a type of astragalus that research suggests has positive effects on tumors and cancer. Human, laboratory, and animal studies indicate that the herbal extract may lower the likelihood of bladder cancer, increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and kill gastric cancer cells.

However, the quality of studies varies, and astragalus’ anticancer effects are not conclusive. It is a good idea for a person with cancer to discuss suitable treatment options with their doctor.

It may help with diabetes

Laboratory studies have demonstrated that astragalus polysaccharides can regulate blood glucose and improve insulin sensitivity. Scientists note that astragalus may have the potential to play a key role in treating diabetes and its complications.

It may help with symptoms of liver disease

According to a 2022 study, astragalus species contain active ingredients that may benefit symptoms of liver disease, such as cirrhosis and portal hypertension. In addition, the authors noted that astragalus species roots and aerial parts have anti-fibrotic and diuretic actions. Anti-fibrotic agents prevent scarring.

However, scientists conducted the study in a laboratory and will need to conduct additional research with human participants to make conclusive statements.

It may have potential benefits for kidney disease

A small 2014 review of 22 studies concluded that astragalus might have potential as an adjunctive treatment to conventional therapies for chronic kidney disease. However, the authors noted that most of the studies were not of high enough quality to make definite conclusions.

A small 2019 review of 66 studies suggested that astragalus may be beneficial for diabetic kidney disease, but experts need further high quality studies to assess the herb’s efficacy and safety.

It may support the immune system

Research suggests that astragalus is antimicrobial and antibacterial. Compounds it contains, such as flavonoids and polysaccharides, may support the immune system and suppress the growth of harmful microorganisms.

Additionally, the herb may have anti-inflammatory effects. However, scientists need to conduct further research with human participants to conclude its effects.

Research suggests that there is insufficient scientific information to determine appropriate dosages of astragalus, which may depend on someone’s age, health status, and other factors.

In addition, researchers note that very high doses of astragalus may suppress the immune system and are not suitable for people with autoimmune diseases or those that are pregnant or nursing.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, uncommon side effects of ingesting astragalus may include:

  • rash
  • itchiness
  • abdominal discomfort
  • nasal symptoms

A person who wants to try astragalus may want to consider consulting a doctor, especially if they have a health condition or take medication. Taking herbal products alongside prescription drugs may be unsafe, possibly causing interactions and adverse effects.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about astragalus.

Who should not take astragalus?

People who are pregnant or chestfeeding should not take astragalus, as experts suggest it may be toxic to the parent or child.

As astragalus affects the immune system, it may also be unsuitable for people with autoimmune conditions.

It is a good idea for a person to consult their doctor for further advice before taking astragalus.

Can astragalus cause liver damage?

According to a 2019 review, astragalus has not been associated with causing liver injury. However, taking high doses of the herb may affect the liver or cause drug interactions, so a person may want to consider consulting a health professional for advice before taking the herb.

Is ashwagandha the same as astragalus?

No, ashwagandha and astragalus are two different herbs.

Astragalus is a herb that people use in traditional Chinese medicine. Evidence suggests it may have various health benefits. However, there is a lack of quality research with human participants to conclude whether the herb is effective and which dosages might be safe.

It is important for a person to speak with a healthcare professional before taking astragalus.